*WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FROM BOOK ONE - THE HUNGER GAMES*
In The Hunger Games, Katniss managed to win the Hunger Games along with fellow District 12 contender Peeta Mellark. When we left them, they had just returned to their district to reap the benefits of their new-found status, wealth and security.
In Catching Fire, the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy, Katniss is still fighting for survival - but in a very different way. Having managed to get out of the games alive - and not alone - Katniss has attracted a lot of unwanted attention. Though hers and Peeta's final act of defiance was played by the Capitol as an act of love, the devilishly sinister President Snow and his fellow officials are unconvinced that the people haven't seen through it. In his attempt to squash any rising rebellion, Snow pays a personal visit to Katniss threatening her with the assassination of everybody she holds dear - her mother, sister and best friend Gale. She soon realises that if she is to protect the people she loves, she must keep up the pretence of her love with Peeta and convince the people of Panem that she is head over heels for him. If she doesn't manage it, it's all over.
It is also the 75th year of the games, meaning that the government are about to pull something spectacular to prove their all-seeing power to the masses and take Katniss down a peg or two. It isn't long before Katniss must decide if she is to fight the system or run from it.
In this sequel, Collins has taken a much deeper look at the world of Panem. The opening celebratory tour takes Katniss and Peeta through each of the districts where they soon realise things are a lot stricter than what they are used to in District 12. The unwanted attention their win has brought on Katniss does not stop with her. More and more peacekeepers are brought into District 12 and public whippings and punishments are reinstated in a district that had, until now, been left largely to its own devices. While The Hunger Games merely hinted at the true horror of Panem, Catching Fire reveals it in all its terrifying glory.
The love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale is also looked at much more closely as she starts to realise her true feelings for Gale but is forced to accept a love with Peeta. After spending so much time with him and going through the games together, she begins to realise how good he really is and allows herself to have feelings for him - though Gale is never far from her thoughts.
The action takes a while to get going in Catching Fire but the sinister arrival of President Snow and the forced pretence of the tour more than makes up for its absence. When the action does get going again, just as in The Hunger Games, the book becomes impossible to put down. I devoured it in two days and couldn't rest till I knew how it all ended. And of course all the ending did was make me desperate to read the third and final book in the saga.
The impending release of the first film next month has many people excited but I, for one, am looking ahead to when this book will be made into a film. The incredible Donald Sutherland is cast as President Snow and seeing more of him can only be a good thing along with a whole host of new characters.
5/5 FOBLES - Gripping, fascinating, clever, emotional, action-packed and utterly impossible to put down.
Read my review of the last book in the Hunger Games series - Mockingjay.